MP backs local residents opposing travellers' sites
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has given his backing to Arun residents who are objecting to the location of permanent sites for travellers in their villages.
Mr Herbert visited Walberton on Friday 8 May to support local residents who are protesting against proposals to allow a new travellers' site in their neighbourhood.
The land, between Walberton Lane and the A27, has been shortlisted by Arun District Council as a potential site for up to five pitches.
Local residents are angry that the landowner has already cut down a number of mature trees on the site and Mr Herbert was able to see the damage for himself. He also listened to residents' concerns about the potential impact of a travellers' site on their local community.
Mr Herbert has taken a close interest in the issue and, in March, met with local residents and councillors of Eastergate and Westergate to discuss their objections to similar sites. Mr Herbert has learned that some of the sites on the Council's shortlist started out as illegal encampments.
Arun District Council is required by the Government to provide a number of sites to meet the housing needs of travellers. The Council is seeking to provide up to 18 new pitches by 2016 and, in October, planning consultants Baker Associates published a report which identified a number of potential sites across the district.
Last month, a public consultation on the shortlist ended and the Council will use the results to produce a policy that will form part of its Core Strategy, which it hopes to adopt in 2010.
In his submission to Arun District Council, Mr Herbert criticises errors in the Baker Report and questions whether it is right to give travellers preferential treatment when allocating land for affordable homes.
Nick Herbert said: "I've received dozens of e-mails and letters from my constituents about the issue of travellers' sites in Arun and met with a number of local residents and councillors. I respect the fact that these are decisions for Arun District Council, and they have to follow Government guidelines, but as the local MP I have made my views, and those of my constituents, very clear and I have asked the Council to take these on board."
Mr Herbert added: "I accept that people from different backgrounds and traditions should be allowed to lead their lives in their own way, provided that they do not cause a nuisance to others, but when land for housing is scarce, I don't see why travellers should be treated any differently from other people who are waiting for affordable homes.
"I also think that, as a matter of principle, we should not reward people who have set up an illegal encampment by formalising their arrangements on a permanent basis. This is completely unacceptable - everyone should be subject to the same rules."
Notes for Editors
1. For a copy of Nick Herbert's formal submission to Arun District Council's public consultation on travellers' sites, visit http://www.nickherbert.com/media_centre.php/327/Travellers.
2. For further information on Arun District Council's plans for travellers' sites, visit http://www.arun.gov.uk/cgi-bin/buildpage.pl?mysql=4925.
3. For a copy of the ‘Gypsy, Traveller & Travelling Show people Sites Study', produced by Baker Associates for Arun District Council, visit http://www.arun.gov.uk/assets/Planning/Gypsy,_Traveller_&_Travelling_Showpeople_Sites_Study.pdf.
4. For a copy of Arun District Council's consultation leaflet, visit http://www.arun.gov.uk/assets/Planning/gypsy_and_traveller_leaflet.pdf.
5. The photograph shows Nick Herbert with local resident Paul Conway-Fisher taken close to the proposed travellers' site at the rear of Woodcraft, Walberton Lane, Walberton.